Failure – My Catalyst For Success

Failure is my catalyst to successI want to talk about that word that most people hate.  Failure!  I have met many people over the years that are deathly afraid of failure.  They are so afraid of it that it keeps them from trying.  The stop trying to reach higher and achieve.  Failure is a burden for some.  For me, it is a motivator.

I can’t count how many times I have failed over the past few years.  I would try something without fully researching what I needed to do in order to make it a success.  With so many failures under my belt, I have had people ask me why I keep trying.  They want to know why I don’t just settle for what I have and keep on going.  Well, my answer to them is simple.  Without trying, I will never succeed!

My History of Failure

Since I am talking about failure, I figured I would share some of my past misses.  While I have failed in the past, you will always see me continue to try.  I don’t give up very easily, but I also know when an idea has run its course.

The Lawn Mowing Business

Back in middle school, I started a lawn mowing business.  It was in the summer time and I needed to get some cash flow.  My parents allowed me to purchase my own things, but only if I had the cash.  In order to get said cash, I needed to come up with it.  I was the one that mowed the lawn at my parents house and did a good job.  I figured it would be natural to offer that to other people in the neighborhood.  After a few lawns mowed, I got bored with it and realized it was going to take a lot of work to build up.  That little idea crapped out after a month!

The Infomercial Pitch

Yes, I have been sucked in by an infomercial before.  I was in college and it was very late at night.  I had a job, but wanted to make more.  Since I really didn’t have much time during the day, I figured that I needed to think outside of the box.  Well, one night an infomercial came on showing me that I can sell other people’s products and make some money.  Light bulb!

Of course, the only way I could get access to such a lifetime opportunity was to send them a few bucks to get the catalog and get an account number.  Well, with my lack of sleep and college student stupidity (aren’t I supposed to be learning in college?), I got the catalog and my account number.  I was super excited about the opportunity.  That was until I started doing more research.

The crappy products in the catalog were overpriced and all over the place. You could buy the stuff anywhere for cheap.  This business idea failed before it really even got started.

My Turnkey eBay Store

I got bitten by the eBay selling bug when I was in college.  I sold a few things on there and it was exciting.  I was able to make a few bucks by selling stuff around my apartment.  Seeing dollar signs dancing in my head, I decided to look around for opportunities to create an eBay selling presence.

After a few days of intensive research, I found one of those turnkey solutions.  You pay a monthly fee and get access to your own website with its own domain.  The website is loaded with products.  You market the website and whatever is sold, you get the profit.  This was really just a crappy drop shipper that charged too much.  Along with my turnkey website, I also got a turnkey eBay store.  The problem was that I had to pay the listing and selling fees.  Ouch!

I was actually able to sell quite a few products via my little turnkey website solution.  It got me excited about selling products. I made a little money, but the time that it took was too much.  I kept having shipping problems and they wouldn’t give me the profit from my sales.  After a few months and many angry customers, this business idea died.

My First Blog

I have loved blogging for quite some time.  I have blogged on many different topics and really enjoyed it.  The problem with blogging is that it takes a lot of time.  My first blog was about consumer electronics.  I have always enjoyed the topic and I can speak on it pretty well.  I started the blog and after a couple of months, I started getting tired of it. I wasn’t getting many visitors, so I was just speaking to myself.  I didn’t know how to market my blog or SEO.  I was lost in a big world.  My first blog crapped out along with the many blogging platforms that have come and gone.

And More….

These are just a few of the ideas that I have had over the years.  There were many more that I would come up with, but either wouldn’t dedicate enough time to or would be caught without the necessary knowledge.  Here are a couple more of my failures:

Car Detailing – FAIL
2nd eBay Store – FAIL
Amazon Affiliate Site – FAIL
2nd Blog – FAIL
3rd Blog – FAIL
4th Blog – FAIL
Internet Marketing Company – FAIL
1st E-Commerce Site – FAIL

If I were to list all of the DIY things that I have failed at, then this could be a huge post.  Along with the many DIY failures, I have succeeded creating and fixing things on my own.  I love DIY and will continue to do it.  You can never learn how to make or fix something without getting your hands dirty.

Why Keep Trying?

Alright, I am sure you are looking at this and saying, “Damn, this guy is a failure!”.  Sometimes I feel like one.  The one difference between me and some others is that failure does not keep me down.  It pushes me harder to succeed.  Failure is my catalyst for success.  Without my past failures, I would have never learned all of the lessons that I have.  With failure comes knowledge.  When you fail, you should learn from the experience and change your strategy.

From the list I wrote above, you would think that I didn’t learn much from my failures.  That is just not true.  While I did failure on a few blogs and other websites, I learned a lot from each.  Each failure taught me something different.  From those, I was able to create this blog.  I knew from my past that I needed to change my way that I thought about blogging.  I consider Debt Roundup a success.

Along with my other failures, I was also pushed to pursue more e-commerce business ideas. If you have read my bio, then you know that I ran a successful online electronics website.  I built the website from scratch. I worked hard on that site each and every day.  I ran the company for four years.  It went from $0 in sales to over $1 million in the last year.  I built and ran the site all by myself.  I had no help.  It was all me.  While I shut down the business, I still consider it a resounding success.  Why?

I achieved my dream at the time. I created something that people wanted and I did it under my own power and knowledge.  Not only did I achieve my dream, but I also learned more in the four years when I ran the business than I did during my college tenure.  There is nothing better hands-on experience.

My biggest success as of late is paying off over $50,000 worth of credit card debt.  While a general failure got me into the debt, I worked my ass off to get out of it.  I learned how to budget, how to save, how to invest, and many other things that I share here.  Over the years I was paying down my debt, I grew as a person.  My mindset changed and now I am succeeding financially.

Flourishing From Failure

I was reading a great article from my blogging buddy, Matt from Mom and Dad Money, a while back.  He wrote about how you have to allow failure in order to promote growth.  Failure is just part of the success process.  Most people that “succeed” have failed numerous times.  I feel that I flourish from failure.  When a failure occurs, I just get stronger and more determined.  I want to achieve a goal even more and will try to figure out any way to get to that goal.  I embrace failure and accept it.  I think this mentality allows me to succeed.

If you get anything out of this post, then I hope it is that you should not be afraid of failure. Embrace it!  Learn from it and allow it to help you grow.  Yes, failing at something can suck, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying.  You will never succeed if you don’t try.  No matter what you are trying to succeed at, just try it.   You never know how it will turn out without giving it a go.  I am sure that I will fail many more times in my lifetime, but with those failures comes success.  I am OK with that!

Do you embrace failure?  Are you scared of it and find that it hinders you?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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Leave a Comment:

Matt Becker says January 8

Wow, I was reading this article an really really digging it and then I got to the end and saw the shout out, and man is that sweet! This is such an important lesson and it’s something I’ve really had to stretch to learn. I’ve lived a lot of my life afraid of failure and it’s absolutely held me back. The fact is that anything you really want to achieve that has any meaning to you will require you to deal with disappointment along the way. But the only way you can truly fail is by giving up the dream.

Really great stuff Grayson!

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    Your post gave me inspiration to write this one. I appreciate your comment Matt!

DC @ Young Adult Money says January 8

I don’t know why, but I love reading these “failed project” posts. As I said in a blog last year, I had a number of business failures before having one that works. I expect to have quite a few more that fail or fizzle out. When it comes to entrepreneurship and especially online income, a lot of it is testing out various things and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. While I don’t embrace failure per se, I definitely can see the benefit of it.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    These just show people that you sometimes have to fail in order to succeed. Nothing is always glamorous or easy.

Mark Ross @ Money Saving Dude says January 8

I also think failing can be quite a motivator too. Just like you, I also failed on my first blog. I made mistakes as a beginner blogger back then, that’s why I decided to build another site, and not to go away from blogging. I’m hoping that this time, I would be able to achieve my blogging goals, so wish me luck. 🙂

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I wish you the best of luck Mark! I am sure you can do much better this time around.

Holly@ClubThrifty says January 8

This is great! I’m sure you learned something from each failure that you’ve applied to your successes as well. I’ve failed a ton of times! The most notable time was when I got my real estate license in my early 20’s and sold NOTHING before quitting.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I most certainly did learn a lot from each experience. I am sure you learned something from your real estate adventure.

John S @ Frugal Rules says January 8

Excellent post Grayson! I personally used to not like failure, I hated it in fact. A funny thing has happened as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I thrive off of it. At the end of the day, we’re all going to fail at something and you can either try and avoid it altogether or get something out of it. I’ve learned to choose the latter and you can often get some great learning material out of it.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I used to hate failure, but then realized that it just motivated me more.

Kim@Eyesonthedollar says January 8

I really plan on success, but always have the worst case scenario planned out with how to deal with it because I have failed at many projects over the years. I actually ended up in private practice because I didn’t get a job I was really hoping for, and that was an awesome turn of events after all the dust settled. My biggest failures have come from trying to make myself do things that might have financial payouts but that I actually hate doing. I’ve learned that I have to somewhat enjoy or be motivated by a goal, or I won’t try as hard and usually fail.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I always plan on success, but know that failure can happen. I embrace it if it comes and try to take away the key learning points.

Kurt @ Money Counselor says January 8

Wow, I feel pretty successful compared to your record. 🙂 All kidding aside, clearly you’ve learned from each failure, and that’s what matters. And your persistence is very admirable!

Kyle | says January 8

Love the message behind your post. It has inspired me to do something similar on my blog. I have some pretty incredible failures on my docket as well. But I learned from them all and they made me a better and stronger entrepreneur. If you can’t handle failure you’ll never be successful.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I would love to read about those failures Kyle. I am sure they sucked at the time, but you are better for it!

Shannon @ Financially Blonde says January 8

I LOVE this! Until I hit my 30s, I was deathly afraid of “failure,” and kicked myself for poor choices that I made. Now that I am 35, I have changed my view of these “failures” and look at them as “lessons.” As long as I learned something along the way, then it is not a failure, instead it is a learning tool.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    Failure definitely is a lesson. It all depends on the person when it comes to taking away a lesson from the failure.

Brenda says January 8

I’ve never been too afraid of failure, I’ve just gotten used to it! But it’s amazing to read about (and see) your amazing success as a blogger, entrepreneur, and debt survivor. Great work :).

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I appreciate your comment Brenda. If nothing, failure has only motivated me more.

Bryce @ Save and Conquer says January 8

Very interesting post. Thanks for all the gory details. I have had failure in my working life, but it was typically some small part of a larger project. I used the failures to learn what not to do, and even with the small failures have always completed project on-time and under budget.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    No matter the size of the failure, one should always take away a key learning point.

KK @ Student Debt Survivor says January 8

I think most people have a fear of failure (I know I do). As you’ve said so perfectly in this post, the key for continuing past that failure is continuing on the journey and not believing that “you” are the failure.

Adam Kamerer says January 9

I feel like this is written about me. Haha. I’m totally one to embrace failure, but I always pick myself up and try something new. I think the important thing is to take time after a failure to really sit down and examine why you failed, what you could have done differently, and what you were doing within the overall project that did work well. That sort of examination equips you with the tools you need to do better the next time you try.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I am glad to hear that you embrace the failure and keep on trying. That is really the key to success!

Mike Goodman says January 9

How you deal with failure sets you apart from the losers out there who easily give up. Kudos to your determination! I don’t like failing especially with my finances but it is a must that we all have to go through in order for us to appreciate things that money can and can’t buy.

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    Haha, while I don’t know if I would go around calling people losers, I appreciate your comment.

Laurie says January 9

Love this, Grayson!! I used to be so afraid of failure that I wouldn’t even dare to try anything new. Now I see that failure can indeed be a catalyst to success. Also, from every failure I’ve ever had, and there have been LOTS, I’ve learned at least one thing, which has contributed to the successes I have today. Great post!

    Grayson Bell says January 13

    I think failure is an important catalyst. If you can take one little lesson from each failure, then you can really succeed in the future!

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